Changing Planet

Video Trap Catches Genet Hitching a Ride on Back of Rhinoceros

A large-spotted genet riding a Cape buffalo was photographed by Wildlife ACT volunteers with their camera traps in 2014.
A large-spotted genet riding a Cape buffalo was photographed by Wildlife ACT volunteers with their camera traps in 2014.

In September 2014 we published a bizarre sequence of camera trap photographs taken by Wildlife ACT volunteers  showing a creature called a large-spotted genet riding on the back of both a white rhino and two different Cape buffaloes.

What seems like the same large-spotted genet sitting on the back of a white rhinoceros.
What seems like the same large-spotted genet sitting on the back of a white rhinoceros.

The same genet, a small nocturnal animal that resembles a mix between a cat and a mongoose, was caught on a number of occasions, riding on the larger animals as they moved at night through a wildlife reserve in the Kwa-Zulu-Natal Province of South Africa.

This interaction had never been heard of before, let alone documented. We speculated on a number of possibilities for such a relationship, from saving energy, to gaining warmth, to hawking insects. The team at Wildlife ACT, together with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, decided to set up a few video camera traps in the hope of gaining more insight into this highly unusual interaction.

Not only did the genet return with at least one of the answers, but it arrived on a third species of animal.

This time the genet has hitched a ride on the back of a critically endangered black rhino. And a few moments into the clip it can be seen hunting insects that might have either been disturbed by the rhino, or attracted to it (like a cattle egret or fork-tailed drong would do during the day). A bat, (another potential source of prey for the genet), is also seen cashing in on the insect bounty. It is still unclear whether the genet is also interested in parasites like ticks on the rhino’s skin.

This is the first documented example of such a symbiotic relationship between these mammals species.

Wildlife ACT assists Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife with monitoring endangered species and captured this groundbreaking footage in the process. Volunteer with Wildlife ACT: www.wildlifeact.com

This was posted from the #Okavango15 campfire on Angola’s Cuito River www.intotheokavango.org

Twitter and Instagram: @intotheokavango

James is an international safari guide and wildlife photographer. He completed his Bachelor of Science in Nature Conservation and has been guiding at some of South Africa’s top safari lodges since 2002. Since then he has lead safaris further afield, that include following the great herds through East Africa, tracking jaguars in the floodplains of the Brazilian Pantanal and seeking out snow leopards in the Himalayas. James has dedicated his life to re-connecting people to the natural frequencies of the wild with the belief that this is our greatest chance of protecting wilderness. He created the multiple-award winning website RangerDiaries.com as a platform to promote guides and photographers and celebrate the wildlife they work with. When not on safari he is based in Cape Town.
If you’d like his advice on wildlife, guiding or planning a safari you can reach him at james@rangerdiaries.com.

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (dbraun@ngs.org)

Social Media